So, where we left off, I was overwhelmed but still delighted with everyone and undeterrably happy on a day to day basis. My car had broken down, but I had gotten it fixed at the expense of not taking tap, holding off on buying new dance shoes and trying a little harder to resist binge dance lessoning like I really want to all the time. This is where we get to the third and final emotional realization I’ve had over the last few weeks/months.
As a bit of background, I currently work as a project employee. I’m a production artist and I’ve been at the same place for a little over three years now, starting first as an intern and then sticking on through 6-12 month long extensions. I knew they were looking for a full time production artist who had print experience, which essentially means it couldn’t be me, so I knew–in addition to a general sense of restlessness on my own part which had been telling me the same–that my time was running short. It wasn’t until last friday (not yesterday, the one before) when I found out for sure that I was going to be out though. They’ve given me until the end of the year, which is extremely gracious, and when I heard the news, I thought, well, that’s that.
Except, having a general sense that something might be changing and having a definite date of when you’ll be gone is not the same thing. I was more sad about it than I had expected (and more indignant. Whoops) and found myself feeling more lost than I’d expected. Because as much as I’d kind of been getting the feeling that I sorta wanted to look for something else, I hadn’t really thought much about what that meant besides trying harder to find an agent to represent me, which is really not practical given the fact that even if everything that possibly could go right does, books still take longer to publish than for how long I can afford to not have a job.
And given that my job at where I work now turned out to not involve much of what I went to school for and would probably require schooling if I were to try to get something similar, I’m feeling a little uncertain about what exactly it is I should do. I was trying to pray about it, and was really struggling and I couldn’t figure out why. I would go through mood swings of, “This is going to be great! God is taking me somewhere new!” and “This is terrible. I’m getting replaced at my job without any hopes of getting anything nearly as good. I’ll never be able to afford my dance lessons and I’ll have to give them up.” I was bitter and angry and sad (not overly, but just on a normal dealing and sorting out my feelings after bad news level), primarily at the prospect of having to give up dancing, yet trying desperately trying to cling to my usual chipper, delighted self. I’ve often been told how Christians can show non-believers the effect God has on their life by how they can keep it together or still have joy or peace or hope in times of crisis. I had started to view my identity in Christ as someone who is continually cheerful because of the joy I have in Christ and so the idea of getting deeply upset about this, when I know that ultimately God has a plan and that even if I don’t end up getting a job in the same thing (which I may not even want!) I’m still qualified to hopefully get a job at least somewhere, seemed preposterous. I was upset about my financial strain, job news and broken car, and even more upset that I was upset. And in trying to smother my frustrations under the cloak of God’s joy or otherwise, I only found myself being more emotionally volatile on the whole, somehow amplifying all the negativity and making it even worse. As bothersome as it was to be sad, I was finding myself more distressed to be so inconsistent. What was happening? Why was I sad, then happy, then angry, then sad and back again? I was angry at myself for not having the faith to just trust God to take care of everything, for being so upset when He has a plan, for being upset when I am still SO incredibly blessed and for not being able to just let it go like nothing was wrong. Because I thought, how can I show the people around me that my life is changed if I don’t have that peace and calm and trust when things go wrong? It had been easier to trust God when I was desperately afraid for my own mother’s health, and now over this, I was losing it. I was assuming that if I let my problems get to me, people would look at my life and think, “She’s no different than anyone else” and not see that God has and indeed is constantly changing my life.
Somewhere in all this distress, I had a sudden realization, tied up in several things, most of which I already knew:
- It is not Biblical to assume that nothing will go wrong in life just because I am a believer.
- It in fact says that I can expect trouble in life. John 16:33 (GASP. In looking this up in my Bible, it’s already underlined. Neat!)
- God made us. If he wanted to guarantee that we could never be sad, he would have designed us that way.
- Painful times are the ones where we grow the most.
- I am like everyone else. Because we all face tough times and we all need God’s grace. To act as if having accepted it somehow means I am immune or unfeeling to the troubles of life is false, haughty, and neither compassionate nor empathetic towards others. It puts up a wall of performance between me and others that will keep me from being vulnerable and honest about and with myself either alone or around other people and makes me callous to say anything besides hollow catchphrases to those around me who are hurting.
- If I am callous and hollow towards those in pain, I am being disingenuous, not loving and not the person I want to be. God is not callous or hollow.
- I tend to try to put myself on a pedestal of good behavior. Like people will see Christians are different if I don’t lie or don’t steal or don’t swear or don’t drink too much or abstain until marriage or don’t get upset when bad things happen or don’t get stressed, etc., etc. When I actually take the time to consider this, I see that while it’s not bad to do those things, approaching it with the attitude I sometimes have is pharasetical, prideful, dishonest and ultimately ridiculous. I need God’s grace too! How presumptuous to act as though my goodness alone is enough!
- Pretending to still be happy and chipper when I am not is deceitful.
- It is Biblical to be sad sometimes. Jesus experienced times of both sadness and anger. Job deals with sorrow. Ecclesiastes 3 (which I just so happened to read in the midst of this) talks about a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance (3:4, I’m hoping being sad and dancing aren’t always separate, though I have had to cut back, haha).
- I was not letting myself have a time to mourn. I was bottling and suppressing my sadness, when I really just needed to let it have its time. I was so busy trying to be the ideal example of a changed Christian life, that I was doing the opposite, and harming my emotional health to boot.
- We are all people. Acting like a robot who never has any bad feelings is not being a person. It is also prideful and stubborn and blocks me from receiving God’s grace and provision.
From all this, I realized: It’s okay to be sad.
I was struggling, and that was okay. I was hurting, and that was okay.
I was confusing the joy of Christ with a necessity to be happy ALL of the time. I was forgetting that the fact I experience these kinds of things is exactly why I need God so much. I was trying to go it alone all for the sake of proving I was doing it together. I was being prideful and arrogant and really, a bit silly and stupid.
When I realized all of this, not without help from some family and friends I might add, I experienced this great freedom, just as I had when I realized it’s okay to say no. I don’t have to worry about trying to perform for people. Just being honest is way better, and that’s great.
I love it when I realize that I am not as great or smart or clever as I think I am. I love when God proves me wrong. I am so ready to learn more. I am so ready to be rescued from myself again and again and again. Thank you Jesus for being so much better and smarter than me. You rock and I love you.
And while I’m still a little sad, I’m working through it. I’m getting better at setting up boundaries for myself, admitting to others when I need help and am pulling myself together as I start to look for a new job. I’ve already made some changes based on these realizations that are making me and the relationships around me smoother, happier and healthier. God is still with me, and even if I’m not happy all the time, I still do have His joy. Life is great, even when it kind of sucks.
Thanks for reading!